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New study suggests menthol flavoring in cigarettes make it harder for African-American women to kick the habit. The study published online by the journal Addiction states the addition of menthol flavoring may strengthen the struggle for black women. The study was completed by investigators from the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention (UW-CTRI) using a series of analysis during a large “quit-smoking” clinical trial. During the trial UW-CTRI found that variables such as peer smoking, education and type of medication did not change their findings.
Steven Smith, UW-CTRI Researcher, said although the study’s findings suggest menthol makes it more difficult for African-American women; further research is needed to understand the results. According to Dr. Michael Fiore, UW-CTRI Director, menthol flavoring reduces the harsh taste of cigarettes for some people. Research has long shown that menthol, like banned flavoring, for many smokers has likely paved the road to addiction. The findings of the new study support prior research which suggests menthol has the potential make an already lethal product more addictive.
In this UW-CTRI study, participants received either placebo or FDA-approved quit-smoking medications. In addition, all participants received six individual counseling sessions. Across all treatment options, menthol smokers had a harder time quitting smoking than non-menthol smokers. Smoking status was biochemically-confirmed by researchers at four, eight and 26 weeks after each participant’s quit date.
The study reported by the six month follow-up 38 percent of non-menthol smokers had quit versus 31 percent of menthol smokers. This is a significant difference. Researchers also reported that out of the women, 35 percent who were Caucasian menthol smokers quit while only 17 percent of African-American menthol smokers were able to quit.
Lloyd “Spud” Hughes from Ohio is credited with introducing American smokers to menthol flavored cigarettes in 1925. Spud, as he was known, came up with the idea of adding menthol flavoring to cigarettes because he felt it would give the illusion of a “cooler” smoke. Thus was born the first widely sold menthol smokes in America, Spud brand cigarettes. Spuds had grown to become the fifth most popular cigarettes in the country by 1932.
Spud’s successful concept caught the attention of the Brown & Williamson tobacco company and their own menthol brand called Kool was birthed. Kool cigarettes were initially targeted to upscale smokers, hence the mascot of the penguin sporting a top hat and monocle. By 1956 menthol smokes had really taken off when R. J. Reynolds introduced Salem brand cigarettes. Salem hit the market as the first filter-tipped menthol smokes.
Although the filter nor the menthol safeguarded smokers from the dangerous effects of smoking, tobacco companies relentlessly promoted menthol smokes as being “fresher” and implied they were somehow more healthy. According to Phillip Gardiner, a research scientist at the Tobacco Related Disease Research Program at the University of California,
Menthol cigarettes have been marketed to some of the most vulnerable segments of the population. For half a century, people with the least resources and the most to lose have been the target of this product.
Menthol cigarette use in the United States has had a distinctly racial component since the 1960s. African-American smokers are four times more likely to choose menthols than Caucasians. Currently, 80 percent of black smokers prefer menthol flavored smokes. It is not known how African-Americans came to prefer menthol flavored but marketing campaigns have relentlessly targeted this race. Gardiner calls it the “African-Americanization of menthol cigarette use.”
UW-CTRI is a nationally recognized research center founded in 1992 and committed to determining the nature of tobacco dependence and developing evidence-based treatments to assist smokers. UW-CTRI has generated more than $100 million in grant funding and assisted more than 200,000 smokers. UW-CTRI is part of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
New study suggests menthol flavoring in cigarettes make it harder for black women to kick the smoking habit. The study published online by the journal Addiction was completed by investigators from the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention (UW-CTRI) and sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institutes. The authors added that it is important to note that people who smoke menthols can quit smoking. Anyone in the U.S. who smokes can get free help by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Legacy for Health